Class Novels (Read-a-louds)
(March/April’s novel): The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
*Linked to our Where We Are in Place and Time unit of inquiry
Yolen attempts to answer those who question why the Holocaust should be remembered. Hannah, 12, is tired of remembering, and is embarrassed by her grandfather, who rants and raves at the mention of the Nazis. Her mother’s explanations of how her grandparents and great-aunt lost all family and friends during that time have little effect. Then, during a Passover Seder, Hannah is chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. As she does so, she is transported to a village in Poland in the 1940s, where everyone thinks that she is Chaya, who has just recovered from a serious illness. She is captured by the Nazis and taken to a death camp, where she is befriended by a young girl named Rivka, who teaches her how to fight the dehumanizing processes of the camp and hold onto her identity. When at last their luck runs out and Rivka is chosen, Hannah/Chaya, in an almost impulsive act of self-sacrifice, goes in her stead. As the door to the gas chamber closes behind her, she is returned to the door of her grandparents’ apartment, waiting for Elijah. Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children’s understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow.
(January/February’s novel): Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo
*Linked to our Sharing the Planet unit of inquiry
When young Iqbal is sold into slavery at a carpet factory, his arrival changes everything for the other overworked and abused children there. It is Iqbal who explains to them that despite their master’s promises, he plans on keeping them as his slaves indefinitely. But it is also Iqbal who inspires the other children to look to a future free from toil…and is brave enough to show them how to get there.
This moving fictionalized account of the real Iqbal Masih is told through the voice of Fatima, a young Pakistani girl whose life is changed by Iqbal’s courage.
For further reading on Iqbal Masih and child labour laws, see the following sources:
Freedom Hero: Iqbal Masih
5E’s Christmas novel (December): A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
5E’s first class novel (September – November): Messenger by Lois Lowry
* Linked to our How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry
Six years earlier, Matty had come to Village as a scrappy and devious little boy. Back then, he liked to call himself “the Fiercest of the Fierce,” but since that time, Matty had grown almost into a man under the care of Seer, a blind man whose special sight had earned him the name. Now Matty hopes that he will soon be give his true name, and he hopes that it will be Messenger. But strange changes are taking place in Village. Once a utopian community that prided itself on its welcome to newcomers, Village will soon be closed to all outsiders. As one of the only people able to safely travel through the dangerous Forest, Matty must deliver the message of Village’s closing and try to convince Seer’s daughter, Kira, to return with him before it’s too late. But Forest has grown hostile to Matty too, and he must risk everything to fight his way through it, armed only with an emerging power he cannot yet explain or understand.